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 Atlantic Challenge

 Issue 96 - March 1997


Atlantic Challenge, October 12th 1997

Not just a walk round the bay

Mike Rosewell reports

Two London 'coppers', Charlie Street, 44, and Roger Gould, 40, will be leaving duties at Heathrow Airport, together with normal beat duty, riot patrol and surveillance, for three months unpaid leave to row the Atlantic. In August 1995, Roger walked into the canteen at Heathrow Police Station and said to Charlie,

'Have you heard that Chay Blyth is organising a rowing race across the Atlantic in 1997?
Fancy taking part?'
Charlie said OK, and it went from there.

Training for both men is now well under way with concentration on improving aerobic capacity and strength. They are committed to exercise six days per week. This includes rowing skiffs up and down the Thames at Kingston, courtesy of The Skiff Club, cycling, running, weights, as well as the obvious long periods on the rowing machine, 'boring, but very, very effective', in Charlie's words. Their training since the turn of the year has taken on a more intensive aspect.

Charlie and Roger are no strangers to rowing. Charlie coxed for Walbrook as a youngster before some rowing appearances in Lensbury, Walbrook and Kingston boats. In more recent years both men have been active members of the Metropolitan Police Heavy Boat Rowing team. In 1990 they rowed a 'Montague' whaler from the Houses of Parliament to the Eiffel Tower in five days. 'It was called Euro '90', says Roger.

'There were two more Eurows that I took part in, rowing 890 miles of the Baltic Sea in 1991 and around the coast of Britain in 1992. It was very much a team effort with fresh crews taking over on a rota system, a little different to this venture.'

Charlie took part in the training for Eurow '92 but had to drop out when his godson, Sam Deacon, was diagnosed as having a rare form of leukaemia, 'Philadelphia Chromosome'. A bone marrow transplant was necessary, but, due to Sam's rare tissue type, no compatible donor could be found in the world. Charlie, with help from his wife Cheryl and friends of Sam's parents, formed a charity called 'Children with Leukaemia' and held clinics around the country to find a donor. They added 100,000 new donors to the register and raised over £1,000,000 in the process, much of this going to the bone marrow unit at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Sick Children. They found donors for other leukaemia sufferers, but not, sadly, for Sam, who died in 1993.

Charlie and Roger's row is, understandably, in aid of 'Children with Leukaemia' and is now well advanced in preparation. They have already raised the £10,000 needed to purchase their boat kit and its construction by Mark Edwards and Bill Colley at Richmond Bridge Boathouse. Sculls will be provided by Andrew Sims of Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, and help in kind is being provided by Buffalo Systems (outdoor clothing), Maxim Energy Products, British Airways and Cotswold Camping. Planning goes on to discover ways to carry some 150 litres of fresh water and provide power by solar panels. More domestically, the two men's families (Charlie has two children and Roger has four, including seven-year-old twins) are saving money so that the mortgages will still be paid while they are income-less for some three months.

Charlie, 6ft 1in and 13 1/2 stone, realises that three months of isolation - 'just looking at Roger', 6ft 3in and 16 1/2 stone - will also be a mental challenge.

'Hopefully the training we have received as police officers in this respect will count in our favour'
'We have a choice. The children in Bristol Hospital do not. Their challenges are much more physically and mentally demanding than a rowing race. For them there is no clear ending.'

© Copyright M. Rosewell, 1997.

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